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Merkel critic Seehofer wants to resign as Bavarian conservative chief - sources

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Merkel critic Seehofer wants to resign as Bavarian conservative chief - sources
FILE PHOTO: German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer gives a statement in Berlin, Germany, November 5, 2018, on controversy surrounding former domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch   -   Copyright  FABRIZIO BENSCH(Reuters)
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By Jörn Poltz

MUNICH (Reuters) – German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal asylum policies, has told members of his Bavarian conservative party that he wants to resign as party chief, party sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Under Seehofer, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Merkel’s Bavarian allies, suffered their worst results since 1950 in an election last month in the southern state after his anti-immigration campaign backfired.

Poor results for the CSU in Bavaria and Merkel’s own Christian Democrats (CDU) in the western state of Hesse have forced the long-serving chancellor to step down as CDU party leader and announce her intention to retire from politics at the end of her term in 2021.

The CSU sources said Seehofer also wanted to resign as interior minister before 2021, which could make Merkel’s coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) more stable.

Merkel’s CDU-CSU conservative grouping formed a coalition with the SPD after the two blocs suffered painful losses in a national election last year.

Their coalition has been shaken by disputes over immigration.

Seehofer twice brought the government to the verge of collapse last year, including by threatening in the summer to prevent migrants from entering Germany via Austria.

But his attempts to sound tougher on immigration than the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) did not help the CSU in last month’s Bavarian election. The party lost its absolute majority in the regional parliament.

The CSU bled support to the AfD and the ecologist Greens and was forced to share power in a coalition with the Free Voters, a protest party.

Seehofer denied last week a media report that he plans to resign as CSU chief. If he indeed steps down, the CSU will have to elect a new leader at a special meeting in January.

(Writing by Joseph Nasr; editing by David Stamp)

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